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News Roundup: Food Delivery Robots Could Hurt College Students

August 23, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2020

Delivery Robots Replace Human Workers on College Campuses

Robots are eliminating the need for human delivery jobs.

Starship Technologies, a San Francisco startup, is planning to deploy thousands of delivery robots on college campuses around the country over the next two years. The company launched its robot delivery service at George Mason University and Northern Arizona University, and is planning to put 25 to 50 robots on more college campuses starting next month.

With students and their families taking out loans and working multiple jobs – including delivery jobs – to pay for the soaring cost of education, these delivery robots could eliminate jobs students need to pay the bills, actually make college more expensive for some students. This could make some college kids think twice before they order that next pizza.

African American, Latino Workers More Vulnerable to Automation

A recent study released by the African American Mayors Association highlights the need for cities to focus on populations that are most vulnerable to automation, including African American and Latino workers.

The report focused on cities in Indiana, South Carolina, and California. As a result of the economic barriers faced by African-American and Latino workers, they represent a greater share of employees without a college education and are more likely to hold a job threatened by automation.

Solutions to help these communities include strengthening access and affordability of education as well as the expansion of job training for in-demand fields. “What we have discovered through this is that research has the power to transform the American economy and, in particular, to revitalize black and brown communities and prepare an entire generation for the work of the future,” said Steve Benjamin, who is mayor of Columbia, S.C.

California Poised to Protect Jobs Threatened by Automation

California can set the pace for policies relating to automation, AI and the quality of jobs, according to one Harvard economist.

“The jobs of the future are upon us today,” Dr. Chaddha writes. “We can’t turn the clock back and resurrect all of the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared. But we can create the good jobs of the future. We need to decide what we want work and jobs to be doing for us, our families and our communities in the future. The state can take the lead in charting a new path forward that works for all Californians.”

Chaddha calls for policies to regulate how robots and AI are used to ensure the quality of jobs, including upskilling workers, portable benefits that stay with workers as they transfer jobs, and universal family-care that includes paid leave.

Number of the Week: 2 Million

That’s the number of Americans employed in the grocery industry, a group especially vulnerable to automation as major supermarket chains push technology that eliminates human workers. The latest threat comes from Cleveron, a startup which manufactured Walmart’s Grocery Pickup Towers three years ago and has now introduced a new robotic pickup kiosk.

The new system makes grocery store workers fill the robotic kiosk with grocery orders and then customers have to scan a mobile code or enter a passcode at the console to retrieve their groceries.


Any upcoming stories about the impact of automation on the retail industry and the economy?

If you’re interested in speaking with UFCW, email awhite@www.ufcw.org for a quote, statistics, or interviews with workers in retail and other sectors of the economy.